Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sunchokes and what is happening in the garden

 Dear Folks,

Dear Folks,

Thought I would visually catch you up on garden activity.

First up is an updated (day 18) on the new garden bed reclaimed from a mint monster.  One of the crook neck squash plants collapsed.  Not sure why, you can see the other looks good and so does the lettuce.  Not shown, I transplanted another nearby and am leaving the other one in, in case it decides to revive.

You can read the original blog post on this new bed at this link.

 Next up I posted at the beginning of the year my recipe for stuffed nasturtium leaves indicating just how big they were and so suitable for the purpose.  I thought I would show off one of the areas of very happy nastys and the size of a leaf.

Click here for the original recipe post.

Some extra edible ideas for these great cool weather lovers.  The immature seed is a burst of horseradish flavor. suitable for making dressings and mustard/horseradish type sauces.  Just do not over do it.

If you like the idea of the stuffed leaves, consider stuffing the flowers also.  Very pretty.  Both the flowers and leaves can be shredded into salads or folded into mashed potatoes for their nice peppery bite.

And my newest garden experiment is Sunchokes, Jerusalem Artichokes -- a member of the sunflower family - not the artichoke family (Helianthus tuberosus).

They can be eaten raw or cooked.  I will be researching some fun recipes to try and write about.  For the time being I saved out some to shave raw into a salad tonight and I'm also going to roast a couple with some onion and try them that way.  I will let you know how they turned out.  The raw taste is nice:  Crunchy, slightly sweet, close to a jicama taste and crunch by lighter.

So one ONE MORE plant?  As I like to explain to folks if I eat it or drink it I want to try growing it here in the garden.  The more healthy, multi-tasking edibles in our gardens the better for us and hopefully for you to also try.

Some facts about the Sunchokes.

As a member of the sunflower you can expect a tall 5-7+ feet plant with sunny wild type flower heads.  A perennial repeater that means it will grow, produce more under-ground tubers, flower, seed and then die back.  Reportedly if it is happy in your garden it can be invasive, so my plan and recommendation to you is to harvest ALL the tubers in the fall, then replant what and where you want them, rather than let them run amok - I have been there with plants and it is not a good idea :-)

Because they are very high in the fiber Inulin as opposed to carbohydrates, they are very healthy alternatives to potatoes (although do not drop potatoes from your diet they are good for you also, particularly the colored ones and if you leave the skins on them).

At 110 calories per cup, their high nutrient density including potassium is particularly noted.  The wikipedia link below has complete nutrient content info.

You can read up more at the wikipedia site.

If you have a nice sunny, well draining spot in the garden, consider adding this tuber to your garden.

In addition to the in-ground spot I chose for mine I am also trying out a single tuber in a large pot, and will track that progress for you.

Have a great week,

Catherine, The Herb Lady


Tinker said...

More a question than a comment: I love the "blue" potatoes that are sometimes available in the markets because they remind me of the huge variety of potatoes I ate when I lived in Peru. Last year I tried planting some of the eyes from these tubers, and the plants grew well. What I am not certain of is when to plan to harvest them. Later in the year there were several small tubers, but perhaps they stayed too long, and the plants began to use them up in the fall. So, when is it best to harvest potatoes?

Thanks, Tinker Ouse

Catherine, The Herb Lady said...

Hi Tinker,

Good question. I also love the purple / blue potatoes. Besides their novel color, they are about 3 times higher in antioxidants as their white cousins.

We plant the potatoes from Nov - about Feb 1st here in the valley. I traditionally plant on New Year's Day as a ode to getting the spring gardening kicked off.

Look for the plants to either flower (not usual in the desert garden) or when the plants begin to turn yellow and 'go down' - harvest then. We typically harvest more 'new potato' size here in the valley. This is usually in April/May depending on how quickly we race into consistent 100s.

If you leave any in the garden they may try to grow again in the summer, but may not produce as it is too hot. The plant will then 'go down' again and regenerate in late fall/early December and you have another growing opportunity.

I usually save the smallest potatoes for replanting next winter - in the crisper drawer - but do not store with other vegetables. Hope that is helpful - you can email me direct with other questions. Always happy to help fellow gardeners.